Design by JUDE is a Melbourne based label with a difference. I attended the launch of their new collection in November, was warmly welcomed into their studio in Fitzroy and given the tour. Inspired by the earthy colours and moods of the Australian landscape, Designer and Director Jude Ng’s SS17 Collection, entitled Soft Terrain, is a mix of relaxed contemporary shapes and tailored lines for both men and women. The designs are very deliberately not based on trends and incorporate a number of elements to create versatile pieces that go the distance. “In conversation with customers, we learn as much as we can about their lifestyle and what works for them, creating outfits for them which can be paired in a variety of ways with what they already own, always with the motto of “buy less and choose well” in mind.” says Ng.
The entire collection is made in Melbourne, either by the small team at their design studio connected to the Design by JUDE retail space, or by makers in and around the city. As the label has grown, so too has the strength of their relationships with these makers. Ng shares, “We believe firmly in supporting the local garment industry, giving work to local makers and helping to keep the industry alive.” If you are ever in the neighbourhood, pop into the JUDE studio and get a feel for what they’re about. You’ll see the team jumping from backstage to front of house covering a versatile range of jobs and bringing the garments to life. Ng really emphasises that they are like a small family, learning from and trying to support each other.
Design by JUDE prioritises luxurious, easy to care for materials that can be packed tightly into a suitcase and still look great at the other end of the journey. If you’ve ever arrived at a destination to discover everything you’ve brought with you looks like a crumpled mess, you’ll really appreciate this attention to detail. The collection features natural fabrics like Italian wools and linens and Melbourne milled organic cotton because Ng loves how they behave and mold to the body, and how these materials age and wear with time. Man made cellulose based fibres including viscose silk blends, tencel and cupro are also incorporated into the designs. Any scraps of material from the cutting process are saved and reused to create one of a kind pieces and accessories sold exclusively in store, so little goes to waste.
It’s the little details that make Design by JUDE’s collection truly special. “We love the idea of our customer buying our garment, and as it becomes part of their journey, they learn more about the piece and discover the hand crafted details we put into it,” says Ng. In an effort to rebel against the way fast fashion carelessly churns out clothing, the label’s pieces are created using traditional techniques including French seaming, the JUDE signature Hong Kong inspired seam detail, pressing, folding, binding and trimming highly finished edges and pockets to die for. Who doesn’t need more pockets? In a way it’s a bit of a throwback to the way clothing used to be designed and made, with quality and longevity in mind. “In the end, we want to tell our customers a story of a garment which has been made with love,” adds Ng.
The combination of thoughtful design, traditional craftsmanship, a focus on local production and a preference for environmentally friendly fabrics makes this label a spectacular example of what sustainable fashion, or just fashion really, can be. Ng agrees, “We strive, in our own small way, to show people that there is an alternative way to buy and wear clothing, which not only reduces the impact on our environment, but also puts the joy back into getting dressed with a clear conscience.”